In April, we concluded the Pesach season, where we celebrated the redemptive work of God Almighty when He took the children of Israel out from under Pharaoh’s hand of tyranny and bondage. Although it is a national “feast of freedom,” the inclusion of symbolic items on the seder plate also reminds us to be observant of the deeper meanings of spring and rebirth. It is the turning of this seasonal cycle that proclaims (according to the Hebrew calendar) that spring has arrived!
Throughout the seder meal, various elements of new greens such as parsley, celery, and lettuce are highlighted, explained, and eaten during the recital of the Exodus story. But, there is one item on the ceremonial seder plate that is not eaten. This is the shank bone, z’roah (arm). It is the roasted bone that symbolically represents the sacrificial lamb whose blood provided protection from death for the children of Israel on the eve of their flight. The blood of the Pesach lamb was applied to the right and left doorposts and the lintel of the homes of the Hebrew people (Exod. 12:7, 13–14). As Christians, we can envisage the prophetic picture of the blood from the head and outstretched arms of the Crucified One that was later shed to provide salvation for the world.
Z’roah symbolizes an anthropomorphic word picture of the mighty strength, the delivering help, and the saving, immutable power of the Eternal One’s “outstretched arm” throughout the Scriptures.
“So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm [z’roah], with great terror and with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8).
“Therefore say to the children of Israel: I am the LORD; I will bring you out…, I will rescue you…, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm [z’roah]…I will take you as My people…I will bring you into the land…” (Exod. 6:6–8).
While we clearly recognize God’s awesomeness in the Exodus, we are also personally reassured in the unending trust we can always place in the saving strength of Abba’s (Father’s) outstretched arm at anytime. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm [z’roah] brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him” (Isa. 59:16).
Therefore, we have comfort and assurance knowing that the everlasting arms of the Lord remain underneath the nation of Israel and each one of us in spite of external circumstances. As the great messianic passage in Isaiah 53:1 illuminates, “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” He personally reveals the power of His outstretched arm time and time again for anyone who opens their heart and mind to receive His deep love.
When we read about God’s outstretched arm, we could visualize a dry, roasted shank bone on a seder plate. Or, we could picture Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel rendition of the Creator’s right arm stretched out, imparting the spark of divine life into His creation. Although the word z’roah can depict a static symbol (the shank bone), it also represents the Almighty’s outstretched arm that continues to reach throughout history in a present and timeless fashion. Remember, God’s outstretched arm is not too short to save, in the past or in the future (Num 11:23).
By Matthew Bennett
Photo Credit: Photo by Joel Fishman
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